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Do You Want The Same Goal?
The question to ask to align your movement.
The best personal coaches I know start with the question:
“Why is that a problem for you?”
Let me illustrate the importance of this question with a story:
Two men approach a health coach and say they want to get in shape.
The health coach asks each of them why being out of shape is a problem for them.
The first answers that he has just been cast as the lead in a superhero movie shooting this year. The film has a shirtless scene and will be seen by millions of people. He is currently an overweight comedic actor. He needs to look jacked.
The second answers that his doctor told him that unless he changes his lifestyle, he probably only has a few more years to live. He wants to make it to his kid’s graduation, but his unhealthy habits are linked to childhood abuse. He needs to live healthier.
Although both men said their goal was to “get in shape,” their solution will look very different, because their “why” is different.
I learned this principle in the context of personal coaching, but it applies to any goal. Before trying to solve a problem, ask “why” the problem is a problem and the answer might reveal itself.
I bring this principle up because, it also applies to shared goals, including those of a movement or political cause. Let me illustrate this with a story:
Two people join a movement to help the homeless.
The first is a born-again Christian. Although they agree with Christ’s statement that “the poor will always be with you,” they believe they have a religious duty to help those less fortunate. This help includes material giving, but it also includes “saving souls.” From their perspective, a handout that doesn’t address the underlying behaviors that make people homeless, like drug addiction and personal immorality, is just enabling.
The second is a Marxist organizer. In their ideal society, there would be no homeless because there would be no inequality of any kind. They believe that housing is a human right and that landlords are engaged in theft. From their perspective, homelessness is the result of capitalism, an imperialist system they are willing to end by any means necessary, including violent revolution.
Do these two have the same goal?
On the surface, they both want to help the homeless. They might even be involved in the same organizations and both bring value to those organizations. However, if these two are put on the same team, they will clash, because their answer to the question “why is homelessness a problem?” is so dramatically different.
If you have a group, organization, or movement engaged in in-fighting, look for differing answers to the question “why is this a problem for you?” While they might agree on the problem, if the “why” behind that problem is different, they might not be aligned on the solution and actively oppose each other’s attempts to solve the same problem. Before trying to solve the problem, make sure you are all actually trying to solve the same “why” and align your organization.
If you want to learn more about the idea of aligning interests, read The Intactivist Guidebook.
P.S. If you want to know my “why,” I talk about it in the epilogue of Children’s Justice. I’m considering expanding the concepts I talk about in that ending into their own book, so let me know what you think. (It’s between that and two other potential book concepts for the next project.)